EVE Evolved: How much toxic, antisocial behaviour should MMOs tolerate?

The EVE Online community is aflame this week after alliance leader gigX was permanently banned for making threats of real-life violence against another player following possibly the biggest betrayal in EVE history. Some players don’t want to accept that gigX crossed a serious line and deserves his ban, and others have been asking why The Mittani’s similar actions in 2012 resulted in only a temporary ban. CCP’s official stance is that its policies have become stricter since 2012, but it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn.

Another side to the debate is that the internet itself has evolved over EVE‘s 14-year lifespan, and a lot of toxic behaviour that was accepted or commonly overlooked on the early internet is now considered totally unacceptable. Many of us have grown from a bunch of anonymous actors playing roles in fantasy game worlds to real people sharing our lives and an online hobby with each other, and antisocial behaviour is an issue that all online games now need to take seriously. The lawless wild west of EVE‘s early years is gone, and I don’t think it’s ever coming back.

So what’s the deal? Does EVE Online tolerate less toxic behaviour today, has the internet started to outgrow its lawless roots, and what does it mean for the future of sandboxes?

EVE‘s origins and the early internet

EVE Online officially went live in May 2003, but its development influences trace back several years earlier to games such as Ultima Online in the late ’90s. UO not only allowed player killing and theft but had specific stealing mechanics built in, and you could really ruin someone’s day by stealing a house deeds or boat keys. You might consider deliberately ruining someone’s gameplay like that and maybe gloating about it to be griefing, but at the time that was just part of the game. You could do something terrible to someone and it was considered acceptable because any harm was just within the context of the game.

The attraction for many of us getting in on the ground floor of EVE in those first few years was precisely that it wasn’t real life. You could have a character who wasn’t you, an alter ego who lives in a different universe with a different set of rules and different standards for conduct. Scamming and killing other players just because you could was acceptable behaviour, and trolling in chat was even used as a strategy to goad people into making mistakes. There was a presumption that the thieves, gankers and corporate spies weren’t untrustworthy criminals and violent offenders in real life; they were ordinary people playing a role in a universe highly detached from real life.

The evolution of trolling

In many ways, the early years of internet adoption helped create the attitude that your EVE persona is not your real self. The internet was just another thing you could do on your computer, something you could pick up and put down again whenever you liked and that was very separate from your real life. You had an anonymous username and a clean slate, and you could get away with doing or saying pretty much anything to anyone. As ominous as that sounds, you also knew that the people on the receiving end of your words and actions also usually took them in the context of a game.

When people talk fondly about “the golden age of online trolling” and your immediate reaction is to recoil in disgust, remember that this is what they’re talking about. When we laughed at recordings of people’s ventrilo servers being invaded with a soundboard or suicide ganked someone’s freighter with all their assets inside, we did so on the understanding that it wasn’t actually harming the real person behind the keyboard. While the some people were clearly annoyed by those things, many of us believed that it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t cause them any serious distress.

There was essentially a time when you could at least believe that the other person was in on the joke, that he had signed up for the treatment he was getting when he installed the game and took it in that context. The consequences of trolling were also largely ephemeral at this stage; almost nobody used real names, gaming time was a temporary diversion from real life, most trolling was relatively harmless, and everyone could always choose to walk away. This is the gaming age that EVE Online was born into, and I think we have to accept that it’s long gone.

The emergence of consequences

Today we see consequences of online harassment ranging from self-esteem issues to suicide – a true mental health crisis – and we can’t just brush them off as people taking it too seriously or being thin-skinned. We take the internet with us wherever we go, and the consequences of harassment can now include having real-life private information released into the public domain, being embarrassed and exposed to friends and family, and even losing your job. Today it is socially irresponsible not to take account of the person behind the keyboard.

A few generations of us have now grown up with the internet, and another has grown up with smartphones and tablets. You’re now frequently getting your ass handed to you in Overwatch by someone younger than your email address, someone for whom the internet is not a tool but an ever-present part of their life – a true digital native. The internet isn’t separate from real life to many people, and that perspective is quickly becoming the dominant way the internet is perceived and used globally. Most of us don’t think twice about using our real names online any more, and this openness is making its way into social expectations and even laws. With all of this social progress, if you’re upset that you can no longer tell someone to kill himself in your favourite MMO without repercussions, then you might be a bit of a bastard.

Blurring the lines

The lines between in-game activities and real life ones have been steadily blurring for most of EVE‘s lifetime, and the effect isn’t limited to just EVE. Online trends have moved communication from mostly text chat in game clients and private forums to voice chat servers, public twitch streams, Discord channels, and Slack. We used to log into an MMO to catch up with our online gaming friends, but now we take our friends with us onto Twitter and Facebook and we carry a direct feed to them in our pockets everywhere we go.

Some of us may lament that many gamers no longer see their characters as separate personae, and yet we’re closer with the real people behind those characters today than we’ve ever been. We invite other players into our real lives, invest ourselves emotionally in friendships, buy each other drinks an events like EVE Fanfest or BlizzCon, and often count on each other for support. Just as the wider world is waking up to the fact that your internet presence is now a huge part of your real identity, even the most hardcore EVE player has to recognise that there’s a real person behind every avatar. You can scam people and steal all their stuff because that’s just part of the game and part of what they signed up for, but are all your insults still just levied against an anonymous character – or a person?

Attitudes in EVE are changing

One of the things that’s always made EVE special in my eyes is the fact players can lie and steal, not just for the emergent gameplay it creates but because it makes the trust you give to a person in-game all the more real. If the recent betrayal of CO2 by its diplomatic officer has shown anything, it’s that betraying trust for in-game financial gain isn’t as heavily celebrated today as it was back in the golden age of scams from around 2008 to 2011. A great deal of the community response to The Judge’s betrayal of CO2 has been simple disappointment from people who trusted him and have now lost their in-game homes and alliance leader.

Back in May, a player stealing 300 billion ISK worth of rare ships was met with a similar response when the player he stole it from wrote, “I was just sad about losing a friendship.” This isn’t the same kind of response that followed the infamous Titans4U scam in 2010 or the trillion ISK Phaser Inc scandal in 2011, and I find that very revealing. EVE Online is now more of a virtual world than a game, and the social rules that players live by seem to have been getting more progressive over the years. Betrayals of trust that would have been entirely in-game matters in EVE‘s early years are sometimes now broken real-life friendships, and actions that were once considered harmless in-character trolling often now blur into real-life harassment.

Does harassment have to occur in-game?

Part of the debate surrounding gigX’s ban has centred on the 2012 EVE Fanfest “wizard hat” incident, in which another alliance leader was ultimately given only a 30-day ban for essentially telling players to help make a suicidal player kill himself. People have pointed out that the wizard hat incident was a single verbal slip-up outside the game at Fanfest, while gigX’s threat against The Judge happened repeatedly in-game over the course of several hours.

CCP’s community manager has said on-record that the company has robust policies for things that happen inside the game client and in the official forums, and confirmed only that CCP can give advice and some third-party help with harassment that occurs outside the game. But the social universe of EVE Online today includes everything from Twitter and Reddit to Twitch and real life events, so what does it matter where an incident took place as long as a player can be verifiably linked to it?

Let’s not forget the “bonus room” or “bonus round” fiasco, where EVE player Erotica1 subjected a player to escalating emotional abuse in a private voice chat server for two hours until he had a total breakdown. CCP did end up banning the offending player in that case, and even then there were players asking for him to be unbanned. And how about when a few players trolled the hell out of streamer Crasskitty on Twitch about her dead grandfather, or when they doxxed video-maker mintchip in protest against CCP hiring her, or when someone mailed CCP Larrikin a bag of jelly penises? (OK, maybe that last one is funny.)

In a world in which your online identity is increasingly just as much a part of you as your flesh and blood self, all online game companies have a responsibility to curate their game communities. Behaviours such as trolling and threats that we could argue weren’t really harming anyone back when other players were just characters in a fantasy world have become a whole lot more sinister in today’s era of open social media where snooping and doxxing are commonplace.

What does it mean for sandbox games such as EVE Online that are built on the idea of lawless frontiers and unbounded emergent behaviour? Either developers somehow try to force players to never let their personal information be linked to their characters, or they start drawing harder lines in the sand that players can’t cross and invest enough time and money to enforce them.

I believe that all developers of online games have a responsibility to define the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour as best they can, to enforce a code of conduct both inside and outside their games when possible, and to actively remove unsuitable individuals from their games. Recent statements from CCP Falcon seem to indicate that EVE is somewhat heading in that direction by adapting to changing online perceptions of trolling, and not everyone’s a fan of that. What bazirbta on reddit says with disappointment on this issue, I say with glee: “The wild west is dead.”

EVE Online expert Brendan ‘Nyphur’ Drain has been playing EVE for over a decade and writing the regular EVE Evolved column since 2008. The column covers everything from in-depth EVE guides and news breakdowns to game design discussions and opinion pieces. If there’s a topic you’d love to see covered, drop him a comment or send mail to brendan@massivelyop.com!
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91 Comments on "EVE Evolved: How much toxic, antisocial behaviour should MMOs tolerate?"

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possum440 .
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possum440 .

The EVE developers are the first problem. Corrupt liars. Until that one thing changes EVE will be what it is a shitfest of people that think everything is normal because they all hang around one another.

There are no in game counters to the things that can happen in EVE. Your game time is forfeit and the developers do not care because if they did, the 27k monthly users would drop to nearly nothing as the toxic outlet for the ingrates would dry up.

thus the devs leave the game the way it is, a piece of garbage with the occasional set of players, like this latest hype train news, set up a fake situation in which the dry mouthed lemmings ate it all up.

There is one good thing about EVE. As long as it is running these malcontents and ingrates will stay in their pig pen, with others of their ilk, feeling like everything is normal because they hang around each other and not pollute other games.

I am sure the rabid EVE fanbois will no doubt attack this thread to defend their game. That’s when the real entertainment starts.

ernost
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ernost

Damn… seeing all these incidents in one place like this, all I can say is, I’m glad I don’t play this shitfest of a game.

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Paarthurnax Dragonhearth

If there was a MMO worth playing …. Then yes that would have been a real question …. since most MMOs are just Hollowed pieces of crap games …. It doesn’t matter ….

I only hope in the next 10 years we will get a REAL mmo …. Not these jokes we have now.

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draugris

Why people play games like Eve or Albion where the community is so toxic is really beyond me. Why do somebody want to spare his precious free time with such people, i really don´t get it. MMO´s are a social experience and so they matter just like the content that is in a game.

I mean OK you can´t get along with everyone and in a competitive environment things can get heated, but the level of toxicity i have seen over the years in games is disturbing. And i don´t even mean the “usual” sexual or racial slurs that are brainlessly thrown around, i mean the threats of physical harm to real life property or persons.

I started with online games maybe 15 years ago and things where different back then, i don´t know what it is, did kids have better manners, was there something like a limit of decency , i am not sure.

Sometimes i whish that game accounts should not be able to be created anonymously so players could be held accountable for their actions. But of course for privacy reasons that would not be a good idea.

Imo Developers should have a 0 tolerance policy to that, perma ban for everybody and in extreme cases of physical threat get law enforcement involved. Some of these people do only learn through pain unfortunately.

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kgptzac

There’s a distinct lack of ability to put yourself in the shoes of others in this comment. I can only assume most people started playing Eve Online isn’t because they are attracted to the toxic community you attributed; at least I wasn’t. I wanted to play a sandbox scifi universe where I could cool spaceships.

Now, I’m going to assume you never played Eve. You should try it before asking the “why” question again. For all the stories of great villainy you read here in Massively, that community isn’t as toxic as many online fps, moba, and even other mmo, in terms of average interaction with other players.

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draugris

“There’s a distinct lack of ability to put yourself in the shoes of others in this comment.”

Sorry i don´t get that.

If you enjoy EVE and if the community as a whole is OK, for you fine. My experience with sandbox games is that a lot of players do not enjoy the freedom of what they can do, they enjoy the lack of consequences. That is with EVE the same as with Albion or Archeage.

the_0estroyer
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the_0estroyer

Why people play EVE is because, though (like society) there are a toxic few (with disproportionately loud voices) you are given a chance to build.

Build a community, build an empire, build just enough to keep yourself afloat in-game it doesn’t matter! In EVE you have the opportunity to pick and choose your connections, to get up and walk away from that corporation that is mistreating you, to find those like minded individuals with whole you can confide in.

Many people create anonymous accounts because they are simply to afraid in the real world to speak up, to take the actions that that anonymity offers (though, that two is a double edge sword) providing them with the courage to engage with another member of humanity.

My corporation was part of Co2, I have nurtured 80% of my members from their first week of Eve to the capital pilots they are today; I lost a third of my members to this betrayal.
It wasn’t the in game asset loss that hurt, nor the taunting words of a vile enemy as they defiled the alliance Citadel with phallic imagery.. but the loss of a friend.

The betrayal from one of our most trusted against all the members of our alliance shocked us and the tactical maneuver to ban a man who’s put more hours into this game than he does his day job shook everyone in the alliance to our core.
If someone I trusted robbed my home of all my possessions, a place I’d built from dust 12 years ago and then laughed at me, in that moment I’d be a bit ruder than telling them to enjoy writing in alliance chat while they can, with their hands.

But I digress, a permanent ban may sound an easy option, but in a world where profanity is used as part of day to day language who do you ban?
Are you suggesting the developers should take up the role of Kira and execute every transgressor?
In a world that people flock to, to avoid persecution and the opportunity for free speech, to reach out in a way they feel they can’t in today’s society do you really think they will view martial law as a utopia?

People play EVE because it allows for every interaction available in this world, every opportunity, if you can dream it you can build it; but you can additionally mute/silence/block those you encounter that are toxic, without ever having to fear being forced to interact with them again.

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draugris

Thanks for the insight into EVE, while i understand that there are interesting mechanics and interesting gameplay in EVE, that does not excuse toxic behaviour.

I really disagree with you regarding the prosecution of some toxic behaviour. To be honest i found it disturbing that you even bring the point to free speech. Calling people “Nigger” or “Faggot” or in the case of women “Whore” or “Slut” has absolutely nothing to do with free speech. My freedom ends exactly there where the freedom of the other individual begins. And these kind of slurs are clearly not “profanity” they are hate speech and we should learn not to accept it, not on the internet and not in real life, there is no difference. If you are a douchebag in online games you are a douchebag in real life.

What i suggest is that developers should first of all implement mechanics that do not encourage people to scam each other and if players do, take appropriate actions, temporary suspension, perma ban etc. etc. Then i would suggest that developers decide what kind of community they want to have and what behaviour is OK and what not and enforce it.

the_0estroyer
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the_0estroyer

I feel like you did not read my reply, your blatant disregard to the highlighted fact that “people flock to, [this artificial world] to avoid persecution” indicates that you are not interested in the opinion of others.

That you would immediately take the statement that those who “are simply to afraid in the real world to speak up” as an opportunity to commit a hate crime speaks more about your warped take on humanity then it does the players.

You take away the possibility to scam, you provide “absolute security” you will in-turn take away all trust.
A community that does not look out for one another is not a community, remove consequence from actions and you will strip the need for contemplating decisions and you will in-turn create a playerbase that acts on impulse rather than better judgement, where people are simply players rather than friends; you will create a senseless environment devoid of true life.

I agree that profanity should not be acceptable in any format, I agree that those who are deliberately evil in game share/show those characteristics in real life but these “are a toxic few (with disproportionately loud voices)”, you should not let them rule your opinions & therefore rule how you run your life.

Rom12:21 Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.

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draugris

” people flock to, [this artificial world] ”

Well and there is the problem with your views. Every time when actions in the artificial world affect somebody in the real world aka if somebody is scammed and looses real money or harassed or threatened with physical harm etc. we have a problem don´t we ? Or do you have another excuse for such kind of behaviour like “escaping from the real world to avoid persecution”.

“indicates that you are not interested in the opinion of others”

I am but i am not your opinion, if you can´t stand that, well that´s not my fault

“your warped take on humanity then it does the players.”

Lol, and that from somebody who is talking about “free speech” in that context. My sense for humanity is simple. Act like a human beeing, treat others like a human beeing , nothing more, nothing less. Let´s not overcomplicate things.

“You take away the possibility to scam, you provide “absolute security” you will in-turn take away all trust.”

Why on earth should i have the desire to scam somebody ? This is delusional. Are you saying you need the possibility to be ripped off to trust somebody ? I dare you…..

“I agree that profanity should not be acceptable in any format,”

At least there we can agree.

If you enjoy playing EVE and if you enjoy the community good for you, i don´t say that EVE is a bad game per se, it just shares the same problems a lot of these sandbox games (at least all that i have tried over the years) have and that makes these type of games not enjoyable for me. That´s all.

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socontrariwise

“Behaviours such as trolling and threats that we could argue weren’t really harming anyone back when other players were just characters in a fantasy world”

Maybe I misunderstand the sentence or other parts alleging the same thing in my eyes but: They were always people. Just because the internet was not so wide spread in social feedback about actions, the harm done back then was the same as it is today. I find it incredible that there is what sounds to me like an excuse of “back then it was just fun, today it is differently affecting people”. Not it never was or is.
Harassing people with depressive tendencies or threats to their life or such was and is always the same. The only thing I feel has become worse is the intensity and sheer malevolence in harassment and abuse some exert nowadays. But what was done back then was not affecting people differently. That was plain pretense of “dog eats dog” attitudes of those who offended and excused.

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Robert Mann

I’m a fan of a moderate approach. As in profanity filters and the like exist for a reason… but that reason is not to have people put the profanity in their name or describe it to avoid the filters, for example.

There’s no one answer, but I do think developers need to realize that is the case. We see the rush of cloned ideas as everyone tries to tap the newest success constantly. Just make a good game, and pick a level of rules for it.

You can then have games that are for the full out trolling of everyone playing, games that are aimed at a middle level where a few words may slip but there’s a firm line before banning or exiling an account to the trash-server, and games where there are strict rules of behavior that shall never be infringed upon.

Honestly, I am of the opinion that most games should take a middle-strict approach, where they are fairly strict about not breaking certain limits but allow for things like profanity filters to do that job. Very few have succeeded at that, as they rely far too much on player reports to adequately police their policies though.

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Nic

I think there are 2 parts to this topic.

1. Let say griefing/betrayals are all acceptable within a game’s mechanism and design. Before embarking such negative endeavors, one should consider fellow gamers’ feelings as not everyone is emotionally strong or stable to handle such distress. The impact felt is harsh and real to this person.

2. On the other hand, if you are a person that put your heart and soul and immerse yourself totally into a game while not steel enough to deal with harsh consequences, do yourself a favor and avoid games that allow griefing/betrayal to happen easily, save yourself from heartbreak moments.

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Utakata

I wonder though, if this is about the chickens coming home to roost. The bed that EVE made, and they are having to sleep in it. Or reaped what they sewed. And putting aside the cliché metaphors…they where okay with the toxicity they started out with, became the thing that boiled over when the internet became more intwined and intertwined with RL. As well as, the thefts, skullduggery and betrayals came with higher stakes with potentially RMT involved. And as well as the populist shenanigans of the gomer gaters set empowered players more to cross lines, along with evolved technology that enabled them to better do that…

…I mean I could be wrong. But to say anyone isn’t surprised about this is living under a rock to put it mildly. o.O

I am however glad CCP is doing something about it though. They just need to be clear what they’re doing about it, so it doesn’t look too arbitrary, political and knee jerked.

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Jon Wax

For the most part, at this point, I try to stay out the day to day stuff and let you guys pretty much be. I learned from last Massively that we are not on the same page. That’s cool, I respect that.

But this stuff above, can’t stay silent. This is prolly gonna be long. Apologies but it’s been a long, long time coming:

The Disney Shooter

that’s what pretty much every game is today. doesn’t matter if it’s a moba, mmo or fps, really. they are all now just Disney Shooters. WWO is the most recent and perfect example.

When you go to Disney with two fully functional legs, you have a certain experience. When you go to Disney in a wheel chair, for the most part, you have the same experience. Disney is commendable for the progressive position with regard to people with special needs requirements. They have managed to create a balance between diversity and equality, ie with people differing requirements all have an equal experience.

which is GREAT for Disney.

but not for gaming.

Majority of current devs have not found this balance. They have in fact created a situation wherein Equality > Diversity: it’s more important for all players to have the SAME experience in the game as it is to recognize that there is a spectrum of ability, from incompetent to apex, that is diverse. This is done at the expense of the better players experience and skill level:

if a raid is high level end game and requires gear or skill rating of 100, with enough corrosive forum requests, the devs will create a match making system where the game slides down to match your level 9 rating, turning all the bosses into 12s so the level 9 can experience the same success as the level 100. it becomes more important for the low level player to experience the illusion of beating the game in a weakened state then it is for the low level player to actually tier up to the expected requirement.
What it does on the meta is devalue the success of the high level players, which is yet another case of the Star Belly Sneetches syndrome that plagues games, no way to actually make a distinction between good and bad gamers because everyone gets “credit” for everything. Unless the dev team adds in some high level gear drops that are exclusive, then the whole thing is a wash. And if they do add in those types of gear drops, invariably someone will request same drops for lower tier players on the belief that those drops invalidate their experience of the game, making said experience no equal. The Division did this with the dark zone.

Pvp:
this is already too long so lets to go the heart of it. PvP doesn’t work for the most part because the maps are too small and the games provide too little to do in order to actually exist in them. the old saying “idle minds are the devils playground” applies. if folks are griefing, then they have too much free time because the environment is designed incorrectly. by removing survival requirements from a game, then anyone can run amok and disappear into the country with no worries. Once you add in the requirements for certain basic needs, food water shelter occasional meds, etc. it slows things way down. if devs could find a balance between making a game into a work situation vs a well armed version of recess, then the pvp elements could be brought in in a healthy way.

WWO again is a classic example: all they needed were warrants and jail.
someone kills you, you respawn and game asks if you want to put out a warrant for murder on that player. you say yes and go about your bizness. other players now can pick up the warrant and legally, with the games support, either arrest or kill said player. player either gets arrested and goes to jail for period of time or dies. or kills law man and picks up federal warrant which equals more jail time and more people looking for him. pretty simple stuff. one or two times in jail playing the harmonica minigame and thatll be enough for most folks.
if we apply tru survival elements to a game like mmo, sure you can rob people. but then what? you gonna hide in the desert with no supplies? that won’t last long. if the posse doesn’t get you, the cold, thirst, hunger, sickness, bandits or animals will.

this whole issue of text chat and voice chat: that has nothing to do with gaming. it has more to do with how kids are raised then how games are played. Being yelled at in a high intensity game is gonna happen, both positive and negative. That’s not griefing. Criticism is not griefing. But again, because devs place more importance on experience then diversity, they removed the one tool we early gamers had that took care of all the nonsense and the irony is they did it FOR the casual gamer:

Vote To Kick. That’s where gaming went awry. We HAD tools to deal with all this way back when it first started but because 1. a lot of you considered being kicked out a room of players who were an actual team to be abuse and 2. those of you who weren’t really teams, just groups of random casuals wearing clan tags (“Star Belly Sneetches”) you actually DID abuse it and got it taken out. Now that it’s out of gaming, we are stuck with all of us. you. each other. whatever.

I apologize for the length, i tried to keep this civil, but with all the watering down of gaming and the constant cheerleading by blogs and “reporters” over every single game (game informer seriously, these guys… everythings awesome, every game is awesome, even the ones that suck are still ok if you just keep telling yourself everyhings awesome!!) without any objective scrutiny of how the constant ez mode mechanics are creating generations of players that play under less and less competitive conditions to the point that we can’t have ANY good games because if it really is a good game, more then half community can’t play it and consider the folks who happen to be good at it to be either all day, oil tycoon rich gamers or just hackers and glitchers with p2w buff. some of us have been playing since the 70s. over time you just get adept at stuff in a general sense with that level of investment. and for those that do have the free time to invest, why are they being penalized for that? why should the game have a wider sense of progression simply because folks who are limited in time demand it?

if we are gonna label the griefers as Toxic and agree they ruin the community in a certain way then you’re gonna have to acknowledge that the softer side of gaming, the “too” casual gamers, are Corrosive and that their requirements are turning all games into Disney Shooters and that soon, the only games out there will be the same ez mode game with a 6 month life span because without the competitive survival elements there’s really only going to be about 6 months worth of content until the masses move on to doing the exact same thing all over again with whatever new FOTM game/genre comes out next.

There’s two sides to this coin, but the only side that gets any mention is like the article above.

good to get that off the chest.

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Sally Bowls

On one hand, I go with the ancient UO dev quote:

A griefer is someone who, through his social actions, costs you more money than he gives you.

EVE’s culture has taken it way, way past that.

OTOH, you can’t fundamentally change an MMO after it has launched and certainly can’t change one in its second decade. So trying to change the culture, not really expanded the playerbase – EVE’s reputation is pretty well set at this point – yet driving off the people who like it would be worse than the status quo. So perhaps CCP should and perhaps they are, consciously or unconsciously, thinking that EVE is a small/med cash cow and they should spend their money on something else in hopes it could grow. WoD, WiS, DUST and Project Legion have not worked out and it is TBD about Sparc, Valkyrie, Gundrak & Gundrak 2.

veldara
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veldara

I’ve worked for a number of game companies in the past, be it for real life CCGs or online games, and this kind of problem is what a lot of my friends and colleagues are dealing with now. As the lines get blurred between what happens in our games and outside of it, we struggle with ourselves regarding where we draw the line.

I remember one time when I worked for this one company, we had two players who were discovered by some players to be sex offenders. Now these players, weren’t doing anything wrong within the game nor were they doing anything questionable in real life as well. But this became enough of a community issue that it became a disruptive force and a major distraction for the team.

The team and I, we talked at length about how to go about dealing with this, I was one of the few that said that “If they haven’t done anything wrong in the game, then there’s really no reason get rid of them…yet.” Most disagreed, some saw this (mostly the big guys) as a pr issue, others (most of the women in the team) found them morally disgusting. Whatever the case we all wanted to move past this so we laid the hammer down on both of them. Naturally there was player outcry but within a week it blew over as was predicted.

So why am I giving a little story? Because this is going to be more common, and if you’re already working in this industry or want to, this is something you’re going to deal with sooner or later. And even though this happened a while back, it’s still something that gnaws at me today, often asking myself, “Could have I don’t anything differently?”

veldara
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veldara

Heya! So in response to some of you guys, here’s some additional thoughts.

Like any industry we tend to look at what the big boys are doing, and it’s no different here. When one of the biggest names in tabletop gaming gave a lifetime ban to a person because they had a record, they opened a pandoras box.

Internally, I knew a couple of the people in that company and asked around. The answer I got was mainly because they didn’t want this person getting screen time during tournament coverage and having twitch chat be littered with just everyone talking about this person’s record. It would be a massive distraction, it would put off female and lgbt gamers if it seemed like they were okay with people like this in the community, and with the company trying to be more inclusive, having someone like that getting coverage would be harmful to that.

I don’t agree with it personally, but I understand why they did it, and this is the same reason the majority of the team members I worked with cited as an example. Tabletop gaming is niche and you want to create an inclusive safe space for people to play so you can get more people into your product. It’s a long and thoughtful process on how to go about it and get there though.

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socontrariwise

I can’t believe your company decided to shun people who had served their punishment and you weren’t even having any clue what it was about. For publicity.
I would drop such a company in a heart beat. Care to mention the company?

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Ket Viliano

Keep in mind that these days, a “sex offender” could be anything from a serial rapist and murderer, to a kid who got caught taking a piss in the park. Being that I know a guy who got screwed for taking a pee, I really have to say that things have gotten quite out of control.

Game stuff really should be kept in game; the EvE thing was due to Gigx trying to get IRL info on another player, which is why it was appropriate for CCP to take action.

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Utakata

History of the LGBTQ history is riddled with such *offenders* when society was less open about it. As well as those who got the short end of a sex phobic mandate. If this is what happened to the OP’s examples, I would encourage them to litigate where they can.

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Melissa McDonald

I remember the early days of the World Wide Web. People first thought you could get “banned from the internet” as though it were a single entity, or that there was a central black list.

Once people realized that wasn’t happening, I think it got a lot rowdier.

What can games do? Keep good logs, and do the right thing. Banning usernames, logins, and IP addresses, however, is all they can reasonably do, and there is a countermeasure for all of those if the troll is determined enough.

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Roger Melly

I think what will eventually happen if online gaming companies and social media companies don’t police themselves more effectively is laws will be put in place to hold them responsible for what goes on under their watch .

Last year I tried playing WoW on the NA servers with some friends and the amount of hate speech I saw in general chat was a bit of a shock ( compared to the EU servers ) . They are obviously letting things like that slide because it wouldn’t be as prevalent as it was if they were offering perma-bans for anyone doing it .

As for what has happened recently CCP were right to ban the person involved but they should have done the same with the Mittani which to me shows me just how irresponsible a company they are .

I see Facebook is facing increasing scrutiny from the powers that be in many countries and I would not be surprised when it comes that not only social media but online gaming will be caught up in the sh*tstorm .

Here in the UK had the ruling conservative party won a majority they were certainly planning on legislation for social media thankfully that didn’t happen but I fear it’s only a matter of time not just here but in many other western nations .

miol
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miol

The line has already been long crossed with the possibility of real-money trading (RMT)!
That was the Pandora’s box, there is no way back from that!

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steve

RMT existed before the studios embraced it. I would even argue that it existed then as a healthier model for determining value and generating wealth.

RMT was a Pandora’s jar of sorts, but the way forward doesn’t have to be pachinko parlors, lockboxes and the Company Store.

The product of the work done in online games has real value. That’s a fact that will not be denied. I think online games have yet to come to the most reasonable model for managing that market.

miol
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miol

That’s why I said Pandora’s box!

It’s impossible to separate “online life” from “real life” ever again!

And devs can’t ignore that fact, there is no way around:

Raph Koster explains why griefing in virtual reality isn’t going away

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starbuck1771

BTW it’s not the ones who make threats that you have to worry about as the vocal majority are mainly hot air stroking their e-peen. It is the ones like me who pretty much remain silent that should scare you. As for toxicity it has always been around, even before computers, and it will be around for generations to come.

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zeko_rena

I think it varies from MMO to MMO.

You would allow more toxic in EVE than in Hello Kitty Online for example.

styopa
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styopa

Deep comments on moral relativism follow.

The problem with ‘zero tolerance of shitty behavior’ is the actual definition of that behavior. Most people use a ‘I know it when I see it’ rule, which is great FOR THEM. What you see, and what I see, unfortunately…isn’t the same.

As I mentioned below, it would be great, had we a single universal moral standard. Some cultures tolerate a level of …bluntness… in their social interaction that is frankly rude if not offensive to those with more delicate sensibilities. Do they set the standard? Some people in this world see Americans as ridiculously sensitive to offense and hurt feelings. Should we use an American standard?

Don’t forget, what we (in the West) consider obvious concepts of conduct, like the ideas of treating women, minorities, and marginalized groups like LGBTQ “like they’re actual people” AREN’T UNIVERSAL CONCEPTS WORLDWIDE. Hell, they’re hardly universal here (and certainly weren’t even 30 years ago). Whose standard do we use?

The moment you say ‘ok here are the rules we all should follow‘ you are being a cultural imperialist. You ok with that?

You may find your rule set unquestionably good. But it takes a sort of empathy to step outside of yourself and recognize without moral judgement that other people may believe antithetical things just as unquestionably. The moment you say “my worldview outranks yours, you should follow mine because it’s BETTER” you are essentially putting yourself in the same moral position as early Christian missionaries who went to the “ignorant peoples” to try to “save their souls” by COMPELLING them to practice Christianity and abandon their former practices. These missionaries are often deprecated (or downright demonized) but it’s missed that – in most cases – the intent really was helpful. Hell, most of the people who practice FGM today believe they’re ultimately doing the right thing.

And, in case you’re thinking it, it’s not simply a matter of saying “well, just take the most liberal view as the most inclusive, and the reactionaries will ‘just have to deal with it’.” Because the MOST liberal view will almost certainly cross YOUR own moral lines of behavior and probably knock over a few of your personal sacred cows. For example, you might say “we’re about freedom of speech – as much as people of certain systems might want to constrain free speech and not let people talk openly about LGBTQ issues – get over it, we’re encouraging it!”…you still going to be an unlimited free-speecher when the woman wants to talk about demonizing homosexuals? Or are you going to insist that there are taboos (in which case now you’re no different than anyone who has very good (to them) reasons for not talking about homosexuality openly).

(Yes, I’m saying in no uncertain terms that the western credo of unlimited free speech and liberal views is starting to turn in on itself and bite itself in the ass.)

Of course, this all becomes much simpler if you are a moral egotist, and have no problem asserting your moral code IS superior. Most people who don’t happen to agree with your set of rules will find you odious, however. Sometimes offensive. And sometimes even people who agree with you will too, just because of your certitude, aka zealotry.

I’m happy to discuss at length the bankruptcy of moral relativism, but in this context while it’s easy to say “don’t put up with trolls or bad behavior” there are a host of assumptions that go into such a statement that frankly display a very narrow view of the world.

And to put it simply: “…it’s still not entirely clear exactly where the line is drawn…” GOOD. Being specific here ONLY ENCOURAGES ASSHOLES TO GAME THE RULE.

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Serrenity

I have a slew of problems with your moral relativism assessment, but the massively comments are not the place to address those. I would highlight the differences between Morals vs. Values and some light reading about the telos of ideals etc.

Suffice to say, that the challenge up until now with games is that there was no counter-balancing mechanism between asshattery and decent human being behavior. Trolls troll precisely because they know there’s way for the community to respond to them or challenge their behavior. Games give incentives for being a troll and a toxic, and then wonder why they have trollish and toxic communities. They don’t reinforce the concept of community, healthy competition, or give mechanisms to balance out the trolls.

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starbuck1771

so what does it matter where an incident took place as long as a player can be verifiably linked to it?

Because legally they can only enforce their terms of service which covers their forums, their website, and the game. Anything else is up to local authorities. If they straight up ban someone for something that didn’t happen on their site/forums, or game it could cost them for overstepping their bounds.

Theryl
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Theryl

Most TOS’s have a clause buried somewhere in them that the company can suspend or remove your account at any time, for any reason, at their sole discretion. Even if they didn’t, it’s hard to imagine a court that would rule against a business that removed a customer for being disruptive or giving their product a bad name.

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starbuck1771

Yes however with that clause comes strict regulation. It opens up a can of worms. anyone could say it’s discrimination or any of a hundred reasons to file a lawsuit. If it doesn’t happen in their game or on their site they have very little ability to do anything as long as it doesn’t violate the terms of service. Which once accepted is binding for both sides.

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odin valhalla

As long as there are mechanisms to protect people IRL I dont see the problem with toxicity. AS an example in ESO it can get pretty heated, you can ignore these people and poof thats it. Real life threats, doxing, finding peoples personal info and causing them harm thats actually criminal.

So we are talking about really two different behaviors, criminal activity is governed by laws. Me telling someone they are a POS and repeating it over and over in game is absolutely trolling, and harmful IMHO but its apart of the mmo evolved social construct. If you are playing MMO’s today and expecting a troll free experience its likely your expectations are the problem.

The eve example is a perfect one, everything the player did was ingame. Ya he screwed them over big time, but within the game arena anything goes within the rules. The person stepping outside of it and making a RL threat? That MINIMALLY should result in a perm ban, the logs of that player making the threat in game should be maintained and or given to the party the threat was made against so they can inform police.

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Rees Racer

In some respects, this issue begs the “other” question. One we don’t like to ask ourselves as gamers. Are the games themselves responsible at all for behaviour that most civilised people find so objectionable?

While I don’t think that PUBG (for example) will actually lead to the sort of thing that shooter games were blamed for immediately after the Columbine incident in the United States, I do feel it’s important to at least take notice that some games can cultivate anti-social conduct.

And it’s even more complicated depending whether you fall more on the side of nature or nurture. I think both have significant influence. I’ve become more jaded and cynical as I’ve grown older, but also more wise. Still, I can’t conceive of perpetrating the kind of enormous betrayal necessary in some of the things we’ve read about in EVE over the years. I’ve played the game off-and-on since 2006, and getting ganked by a gang of frigates whilst mining is altogether different than what The Judge did this month…which I consider sociopathic.

I mean no disrespect to some who work a long con or see a good Machiavellian scheme come to fruition, but some actions are not even ethically borderline. I was never the sort to pull wings off butterflies, or revel in seeing small animals suffer. I’m quite sure some people who play EVE (and other games) will end up incarcerated after doing things in the real world they learned in a game. I shudder to think what some gamers already do in their basements or lofts.

I guess my point is that companies need to do everything they can to make sure the players understand the clearest of demarcations between virtual worlds and the real world. When a player blurs or crosses that line, there needs to be discipline and/or sanctions.

hurbster
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hurbster

Should not tolerate any, to be honest.

styopa
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styopa

Which would be great, had we a single universal moral standard. Some cultures tolerate a level of …bluntness… in their social discourse that is frankly rude if not offensive to those with more delicate sensibilities.

I don’t see that coming anytime soon.

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Roger Melly

There is an element of truth in that but also I think there is a huge difference between being blunt and being anti-social .

I would think that is pretty obvious .

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rafterman

Exactly. Acting like some cultures being “blunt” is anything similar to what people mean when talking about anti-social behavior is a massive cop out. No one cares about bluntness.

There isn’t a country on this planet where being a toxic asshat can be written off by differences in cultures.

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capt_north

The real “Wild West” existed for a very brief span of American history. Settlements either got civilized, with law enforcement and the imposition of social mores, or they dried up and blew away.

Much of our fascination with the period owes to the writers, both contemporary and those of later generations, who took a dirty, miserable and profoundly boring setting and transformed it into a uniquely American genre of chivalric romance. The “Wild West” of popular imagination isn’t dead because it never existed in the first place.

To the extent that the metaphor is applicable to MMOs, this is the key point: the “Wild West” is unsustainable. You can’t freeze any society, virtual or real, at some golden moment where the dynamics suit your taste. The society will mature, or it will die.

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Schmidt.Capela

The greatest MMO example might be Ultima Online. EA actually hired an executive producer to handle closing down the game because they saw the number of players being lost to anti-social in-game behavior as unsustainable, and it was ultimately saved because that same executive producer decided to impose rules that prevented most of that behavior (by creating the PvE-only world of Trammel).

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Mark

Tolerate, none – but the question is how much they can conceivably prevent or punish.

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Jacobin GW

Eve is not lawless, it is bound by specific game mechanics. The only reason people can get away with theft is because personal bank space is invincible. The fact that 4k people cant just take their stuff back through force is kind of ridiculous in a game that touts itself as ultimate ‘hardcore’.

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steve

This. So much, this.

You can’t get rid of toxic behavior, but if your mechanics allow the assholes to bully, cheat and steal with impunity then your game isn’t tolerating bad behavior but enabling it.

If someone can shoot me and take my shit in an online world, I should be able to posse up a mob and erase the offender from our shared reality

I think we try and forget that civilization is and always has been enforced at gunpoint (spearpoint, whatever). If you want an environment where most people follow social norms, you must be able to enforce those norms.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

There’s another alternative to the revenge posse, one used in most other MMOs: The studio simply steps in when someone robs your account, scams you, harasses you, or is so otherwise destructive that keeping the perpetrator around is a net negative for the game.

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starbuck1771

The problem with them stepping in if you got scammed or robbed in an MMO is 1: you enabled yourself to be scammed (so only trade with people you trust) and 2: the only way for your stuff to be stolen is if you gave someone access to it unless your account was hacked. You shouldn’t really reward ignorance and just confiscate it all.

The situation in EVE however was a major brainfart because multiple corporations entrusted their assets to a select few individuals which was idiotic in the first place. My corporations that I have been with have always set access to which tabs each person was allowed to access. So if they just handed all their stuff to this guy and said you be alliance treasurer then they have nobody to blame but themselves.

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steve

Sure. Hire some cops. It’s (almost) always a much better solution than mob justice, but given that our current state as MMO denizens is more serf than citizen I’m not sold that the landlord will do more than the bare minimum necessary to maintain a revenue stream.

We could go way down the rabbit hole on this one. For me, the true black-masked villain behind all of this is our current IP laws. If we had some measure of ownership of the product of our work in these games the environment would favor us actually fixing the problem rather than listening to platitudes from developers.

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thalendor

There’s one important flaw in your analogy though: while serfs were generally bound to the land we are not bound to stick with any particular MMO. Indeed, a mass exodus of players can cause a company to change course. As mentioned a few posts above, UO added PvE Trammel due to people leaving the game frustrated by the PvP-only nature of the game. Whatever your thoughts on adding a PvE-only area, the change turned around the fortunes of the game from loosing to once again gaining subscribers. In other words, to some extent it’s on us to make sure it’s clear that, should a developer want to maintain that revenue stream, they need to provide us with an acceptable service and one way to do that is to vote with your wallet.

dixa
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dixa

Pewdipie
Jake Paul

The internet can’t get enough asshattery.

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Castagere Shaikura

The online gaming community today is filled with racist sexist asses. Its getting worse everyday. Hardly anyone i know plays online games anymore. Just look at gaming utube and twitchtv channels. They are filled with scumbags. And a game like Eve online promoting this behavior tells you just how screwed up the online gaming community is. Single player games are the only games for good human beings to play now. And i’m tired of this problem not really being addressed from game sites like MOP. They really could be a strong voice if they would step up.

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Utakata

“And i’m tired of this problem not really being addressed from game sites like MOP.”

Those words weren’t chosen wisely nor where they informed or well researched. Either follow the links posted by our esteemed E-in-Chief below. Or follow the articles with more then 500 plus comments where the subject is not about Star Citizen. Just saying.

styopa
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styopa

IMO you’re not really making a comment on gaming, you’re complaining about basic human nature.

Read Leviathan. Hobbes explains the onset of the Greater Internet Dickwad theory 366 years ago.

I’d agree with Bree – I don’t think MOP condones or coddles toxicity. Hell, I rather expect that I’ve been considered occasionally toxic by some particularly soft snowflakes.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

Getting to the heart of toxicity in MMORPGs
Real solutions to the MMO toxicity problem
Dealing with toxicity in MMO communities
What makes an MMO community toxic?
Which MMO has the most toxic community?

If you search the word “toxic” on MOP, you’ll find many more specific to certain games, in addition to the one you’re commenting on. One can fairly accuse us of many things, but “being soft on toxicity” is not one of them.

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Alex Willis

1) EVE does not promote this behaviour. That is a canard.

2) You just accused MOP of silence on a story that literally “addressed” the issue you’re complaining about.

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Castagere Shaikura

I’M not saying MOP isn’t saying anything. I’M saying with their power they could do more than just write up an article once in awhile. Something needs to be done about it and that has to come from sites like this to get the ball rolling. I’M not in any way putting down MOP.

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Peregrine Falcon

“I’M saying with their power they could do more than just write up an article once in awhile.”

What EXACTLY could MOP do with their “power” to address Toxicity in MMOs?

I don’t know about you, but MOP doesn’t have any power to control or affect anything that I do in any MMO, or anywhere online, except in their comments section.

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John Mclain

Ugh… Yeah Eve “DOES” promote this… quite literally at that.comment image

Not only does it promote it, the developers participate in it quite frequently, and even publicly put on their website’s front page a livestream of it happening at fanfest with them fully briefed on what would happen ahead of time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love eve and have played it for over a decade, and don’t care about any of this crap, but let’s not outright lie about the game we’re playing.

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zeko_rena

I run around in SWTOR playing as a Sith Lord using Force Choke on everyone…

Sometimes being a Villain is fun

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Alex Willis

Don’t confuse in-game with IRL. We play badguys all the time.

comment image

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Schmidt.Capela

Wario is more obnoxious than bad, though.

(Which is why I can still play games that feature him. On the other hand, I’m often unable to play games whose protagonist is evil, unless the setting is so over-the-top that no sane person can take it seriously; Dungeon Keeper and Evil Genius, for example.)

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starbuck1771

Well people love playing Imperials in star wars games and that deals with slavery, murder, and other evil acts.

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Ket Viliano

MOP has stepped up, they host conversations about this all the time. What they don’t do is whine or moralize at random, or try to propose a solution that just won’t work.

What MOP does do is try to keep it positive, and I think that is the right thing to do.

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Arktouros

I disagree on a few points.

Primarily that there’s always been a person behind the screen. At the tail end of my Ultima Online experience I joined a guild with the intention of hunting and stalking their members to take their loot (you got no murder count if you killed a guild member) before they could kick me out. First guy I killed had keys/runes to all their houses and so began this mega 13 hour loot session (through daily down time) where I ended up stealing tons of boats and loot from houses. Those guys were devastated and basically quit the game after. Nothing was going to recover that and they were 100% betrayed and made a post they were quitting to go play EverQuest. I know for a fact the guy who lost the keys/runes in the first place felt like total shit after cause he lost all his friends’ stuff. So there have always been players there behind these things we do and the game designers never designed those systems in mind with that being OK.

Secondly, I have always found it alarming how trusting or how openly people do things online. I have always striven to keep a degree of separation between my online gaming, my personal life, and my work life. Ultimately we choose our own level of privacy and interaction. I don’t feel I should be held accountable for someone else deciding to wear their “heart on their sleeve” and inter-mix those aspects of their life and then being alarmed when it comes back to bite them in the ass. Now you can try to shame me into silence, or you can even setup rules in game that will silence me, but the reality is that all you’re doing is covering up the problem and not addressing it.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

I wonder if there’s something to this. When I started playing UO in 1997, it was absolutely and utterly clear to me, even as a completely clueless teen, that things that happened in UO had a profound and serious effect on people out of game, that those were always real people, and everyone knew it, including the PKs and thieves I knew personally. I never, ever recall a phase when the greater MMO community thought grief play and ganking — words for moral concepts that very much existed back then — were harmless and acceptable, which is why we formed entire guilds devoted to fighting those very toxic players. We were having this same fight over what was real, where the player/character divide was, and whether griefing was a problem IRL 20 years ago. I guarantee MUD players were having it long before we were too.

Brendan is probably right that people outside of the MMO community, outside of the virtual world spaces, have been wising up to it thanks to social media, but inside the MMO community? I’m not sure I agree. I think it’s always been a minority of people who just want an excuse to be jerks in a perceived safe place online.

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Arktouros

I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but teenager me back in UO wasn’t looking for an excuse to be a jerk. An excuse implies that you think or know something is inherently wrong where as, at least in my case, I never really associated the actions with any form of morality. It was something I could do and that I would enjoy (immensely) and was largely consequence free (was within the game rules) so I did it.

Ultimately I think that’s what drives the kinds of toxicity that we see in games and gaming: Self gratification. I used to use sarcasm a lot when presented with stupidity. So someone would say something stupid, I’d then sarcastically mock their stupidity with an even more over the top stupid assertion. While I’d love to justify that as me going over the top to get them to realize their stupidity the truth of the matter is that isn’t going to accomplish anything but make that person hate you while making me feel better about myself.

I see the same thing in a lot of competitive scenarios. If someone is losing it can be very tempting to verbally lash out towards the reason you think you’re losing. Whether it be an “overpowered class” and lash out the person for being unskilled for having to use it or attacking your own team mates for their lack of performance all of that is the person trying to make themselves feel better regardless of the cost (in this case attempting to make others feel worse).

However I’m 100% with you that none of this is new to me as someone who started online gaming back in 1996. The main difference is where as before computer gaming was this niche thing that maybe thousands took part of and you didn’t talk about because no one understood it into this massive thing millions partake in and even those who don’t are aware of it.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

That makes sense. I suppose I meant that at least some of them knew they were really upsetting other people and simply chose not to care; in fact, some did it because they were really upsetting other people and they enjoyed it, whether they were stealing castle deeds or hacking IRC (and those dudes tended to be older and come from FPS culture, I noticed). That’s what shifts what they did into griefing territory (and compels them to summon an excuse or rationale to justify it to themselves/everyone else).

But yes, I absolutely acknowledge that some people, especially younger folks, truly didn’t understand the impact of what they were doing back then – I just don’t think that was as widespread as Brendan does.

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Arktouros

Oh I understood what you meant. What I meant was that, at that time, the moral question never really popped up. I knew what I was doing would upset other people and a large portion of why I did it was for that response of that other person. I mean you don’t do things like spread out a victims items all over the ground then hide so you can build up their hope that they died but they can still get their stuff back only to murder them all over again without wanting to illicit a reaction. I mean we used to take Spirit Speak so we could hear the pleas and insults. Early on we could literally cook their bodies and eat them while they were asking for their stuff back. We used to crack jokes comparing people’s responses to the 7 stages of Grief.

Personally I just never questioned the morality of it. I enjoyed it, I had fun, so I kept doing it regardless if that all came at the expense of others. Now, and to me this is where it gets interesting on the topic, after many years of socializing and maturing I can objectively see where people are coming from if they thought me a jerk for my past actions. However, and back to Brendan’s topic, I have to really question how much I let those other people impact me. On the one hand I’m allowing other people to pass judgment on me and allow their ethics to dictate how I should I feel. On the other hand I could ignore the ethical standards in which people are holding me to as being a jerk but then I’m right back to treating others as worthless.

To which I finally round back to one of my original points, had this any RL connotations (IE: I was outed at work as a “griefer”) oh certainly I would hold hat in hand and put on a wonderful show of remorse and regret. However in the end that’s just making me play the “shame game” because a comfortable lie is less upsetting than the truth.

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Alex Willis

I think it’s always been a minority of people who just want an excuse to be jerks in a perceived safe place online.

And this is the critical issue: assuming the activity is kept in-game, is there not an argument to be made for making a space for this kind of behaviour? I’m uncomfortable with the idea that gaming culture as a whole would have a strict moral code for entire categories of in-game behaviour. Can games never be a safe space to practice un-safe (again, in-game only) activities?

Part of the problem is that there is very little conversancy in the gaming community around distinguishing in-game vs. IRL behaviours. Even on this site, which is one of the best for having substantial discussions, people still say “EVE is full of psychopaths because I get ganked all the time.” That’s a confusion of endorsed gameplay style and troubling social behaviours that can cause problems IRL. While there might be some overlap in fringe cases, the two are not inherently the same.

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Alex Willis

Some of what you’re talking about is a complex phenomenology — how people agree to socialize in an environment where betrayal and trust are critical components of a gaming experience. The internalization of those feelings (that is to say, taking the trust and betrayal out of the game and into your life) is a dangerous thing to do, as you suggest. And yet people do it all the time.

I think games should allow space for some types of antisocial behaviour such as are possible in games like EVE or UO. The competitive element’s inevitable consequence implies someone is going to lose. If the worst thing that happens is that you’ve lost stuff in game, that’s just fine. If you internalize the lost time or money you spend in game into your own self-worth out of game, that’s hard to avoid, but caveat emptor.

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Alex Willis

Great article! I think that EVE still carries a disproportionate volume of the ethical “example” when compared to other MMOs, in how it experiences and polices toxic behaviour. I think that people do conflate the gameplay style with some of the more problematic IRL-esque behaviours (asymmetrical fairness in-game, and troubling behaviour OOG), and your “Blurring the Lines” segment here adds further complication to that when you consider the modes of communication and contact that have grown up around the games.

One thing is for certain: EVE has always forced people to reimagine the boundaries of sociability. As a gaming experiment, this is fascinating, because the petri dish of what might be perceived of as antisocial behaviour doesn’t have a lot of precedents, insofar as how it is policed. While it’s not pushing boundaries as much as it used to (and that’s probably a good thing), it will almost always be cited as a negative example of a social culture, simply because it opened a space wherein such things were possible in the first place. But I think it’s critically important to remember that the kinds of focused anarchy (or “curated chaos”?) that it has encouraged has made possible the kinds of storytelling and narrative that would never have been possible otherwise. It’s a social sandbox, as much as it’s a unique gaming experience, with all the peaks and valleys of behaviour that entails.

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Wanda Clamshuckr

The majority of behavior described in this article isn’t tolerated in real life. I can’t stand on my property line and harass my neighbor about their race, sexuality, or disability. They’d phone the police. Pushing someone, intentionally, into an emotional breakdown with a barrage of abusive commentary would also land me in jail. Law enforcement doesn’t tell people to grow a thicker skin; they just charge you and make you answerable in court.

Part of the debate surrounding gigX’s ban has centred on the 2012 EVE Fanfest “wizard hat” incident, in which another alliance leader was ultimately given only a 30-day ban for essentially telling players to help make a suicidal player kill himself.

There is a recent, real life example of a young woman essentially doing this and she received 15 months for involuntary manslaughter.

So, the answer is simple: It’s not acceptable.

If the real world counterpart to what you are doing online is illegal, then someone has to step in and give real consequences to people’s virtual actions.

Reader
Ket Viliano

I wish that law enforcement would actually do their job consistently every where, but they do not, they are very spotty. Audry Pott was humiliated by classmates, and the Santa Clara DA office did nothing for over 6 months, until political pressure was brought to bear, then they let the kids off with a few days of jail, no manslaughter charge at all. Same county system did not prosecute the De Anza rape gang, but they dragged Brock Turner through the mud because the girl involved was very well connected.

I am an Alum of both Saratoga High and De Anza College, and was once employed at the Stanford Book Store as a clerk, which is how I know about this stuff and no small part of why I care.

You cannot count on law enforcement to do anything right, or consistently.

Reader
TheDonDude

Kinda reminds me of wrestling’s kayfabe.

Sports, too. Major League Baseball will definitely suspend you for actions outside of the game.

wpDiscuz